On July 7, the U.S. House of Representatives Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee on appropriations is scheduled to vote on the future of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a cost-effective, match-based conservation grant that raises an average of 3.2 non-federal dollars for every federal dollar invested. After being threatened with total elimination during the FY 2011 House budget negotiations, NAWCA is once again on the chopping block. However, NAWCA supporters across the nation are contacting their members of Congress to urge them to continue funding for the program.

One area where NAWCA supporters are rallying to make their voices heard is in Idaho. Several of the partners who have contributed to NAWCA in Idaho recently sent a letter to Chairman of the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee Rep. Mike Simpson (ID) urging him and the committee to include funding for this successful conservation program.

A large portion of the signers are private landowners who have partnered on projects funded through NAWCA in Idaho. These NAWCA partners are urging Rep. Simpson to retain the current funding level of $37.5 million for the NAWCA program in the FY 2012 budget bill. The current funding level is 21 percent below $47.6 million allocated in FY 2010, the lowest level since 2005.

In the letter, the partners explained that "serious cuts to or elimination of this program would seriously damage our country's ability to protect and restore the critical wetland areas that are so important."

Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall said he hopes hearing from people in their states will help Congress understand that waterfowl conservation is an important issue to their constituents. "Ducks Unlimited is well known for its fiscal responsibility, and we support efforts to reduce our national deficit. We understand that when it comes to budget cuts, Congress has tough choices to make," Hall said. "These choices make it even more important that cost-effective conservation programs that also provide positive economic impacts, like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, are not cut from the FY 2012 budget.

"In a time of tight budgets, it is important to remind Congress that conservation programs not only protect vital habitat and natural resources, but also bring significant income to local and federal treasuries, thanks to the jobs created through hunting and other outdoor activities," Hall continued. "As FY 2012 budget negotiations continue, Ducks Unlimited and its members will continue efforts to inform Congress on all the benefits that NAWCA provides to our nation's natural resources, people and economy."

Several NAWCA support letters have been sent to Congress to raise awareness about the program's positive economic impacts. Since its inception, NAWCA has provided on-the-ground wetland projects in all 50 states while helping to boost local economies and create jobs. Overall, hunting and fishing support more than 1.6 million jobs and generate more than $25 billion a year in federal, state and local taxes. Hunters and anglers in the United States spend about $76 billion per year pursuing their outdoor passions.